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12:39pm 27/10/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers

I don't know much about American Football - despite it being shown on Channel 4 in the 80s, the most abiding memory is of the Channel 4 ident with a helmet and my dad shouting 'FOUR FOUR FOUR' and laughing. I can name two players - the Refridgerator (because he's called the Refridgerator) and Rosey Greir (because he wrote a book called Needlepoint for Men). Seeking out any actual coverage possibly involves subscriptions to specialist channels such as Extreme Special Gridiron 4, so aside from being aware of the Superbowl, mainly how big a TV draw it is, my knowlege of 'football' is drawn from teen movies.

So on Friday afternoon, Alan asked me if I wanted to go and see some American Football. At Wembley. 'Um, do you want to go?' Yes. Yes he did. This was a man who, after lots of family holidays, started sporting a Miami Dolphins baseball cap and understands what 'sack the ball' means. 'They're free, as this work event fell through.' I thought why not. I've been to two stadia (Nou Camp and, um, Ewood Park) but never seen any kind of live match - why not break my duck at the national stadium? And it might be fun. I like seeing Alan all enthusiastic about things, and it's a kind of glamorous sort of rugby, is it not?

On Sunday morning, I had a GetLippie makeover. As my lips were being painted with something very red and Givenchy, I was asked where I was heading off to later. 'American football. At Wembley.' Noises of distaste were made. 'It's the most frustrating thing ever. Take a book.' I had one, but decided not to tell Alan. We met up, me feeling like Sarah Palin with lipstick and game tickets in hand, popped to Tesco for food and got the tube. As the tube got closer, the carriage filled up with shirts - some Patriots, some Miami Dolphins ('See that name? He's a good player') and others I didn't recognise. We asked each other whom we should support. Now, not being privy to such useful information as shirt colour, badge and mascot to help me make this blind decision, we went for the Patriots as New England sounded nicer.

Wembley was more crowded than we expected, which was good. After being frisked, learning that a pint costs £4 and chicken dippers and chips £8.50, we settled in to work out what the fuck was going on.

The first thing I noticed was how branded the game is. The leagues and cup competitions for football football are sponsored, but here - the game was going out on US TV - everything seemed sponsored. The 'fan-cam'. The replays. The player warm-up. The cheerleaders came on to a message saying that they were brought to us by Reebok. I was too far away to see their uniforms (they were as tiny as teenage girls - a testament to the powers of dance training)  but there was probably a logo here and there.

Secondly, it felt at times more like a theatrical event than a sports match. When a good play happened, Tekken-style compliments flashed up on the scoreboard. Breaks in play were interspersed with videos of players talking about their least favourite household tasks. During a touchdown, flagbearers came on with huge flags; the video screens directed us to wave the minature versions on each seat. The game kicked off with huge helmet-shaped balloons, pyrotechnics, and the cheerleaders dancing to Calvin Harris; the stage was quickly whisked off, the cheerleaders off-pitch, twinkling pom-poms at the side of the field until there was a Time Out, when they came back again to do a can-can to distract us from the team huddles. Football just has Gary Lineker looking sorrowful and sub-standard pies.

The game itself? Well, I was glad I had Alan there to explain things. With football, the team needs to get the ball in the opposing team's net as often as possible; the rest is just noise. Simple as a potato. I knew the touchdown and the field goals were the aim here, but it didn't appear to just be a case of getting one and carrying it on - there were so many conditions attached to where the ball could go and for how long. I enjoyed watching the tussles (one man went over on his head) and the touchdowns, but the middle part was a bit lost on me. Perhaps I could watch a match on TV, with commentary and close-ups, to get a better feel for it. The atmosphere was great, though. The stadium had a lot of Real Americans watching the game, some with home-made signs ('which is better? Off-fence or De-fence?' 'Shush, you.'), though given that football games usually have the crowd casting aspersions on the sexual habits of the opposing team's captain, it seemed a bit more polite than I thought it would be. Not dispassionate, just lacking in fans shouting things with 'up the arse' and 'when the girl says no, molest her'.

Oh, and the Patriots won 31-7. I wanted Tampa to come back to get the game more interesting, but as the person next to us said, they're reknowned as a fairly bad team. However, they had a better mascot, which is what really counts.
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(no subject)
02:32pm 27/10/2009 (UTC)
Mr. Dr. Grumpy Mister, M.D. aka the Twelfth Doctor
Your entire layout is broken due to Bandwidth Exceeded, dear.

Anyway, glad you enjoyed American football. The person next to you doesn't quite have the right of it but then again, history is haaaaaaaaard, man. I'm still miffed the Bucs let my boy Warrick Dunn go (he's the best they've had in a long time), but what-ev, lol.
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(no subject)
02:42pm 27/10/2009 (UTC)
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
The whole layout? Rubbish. It won't load on our server at work for some reason.

I think Tom Brady is like the Beckham of football, is that right?
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(no subject)
02:56pm 27/10/2009 (UTC)
Mr. Dr. Grumpy Mister, M.D. aka the Twelfth Doctor
I see all these "Upgrade to Pro Today!" graphics which say "Bandwidth Exceeded" on your background, so.

Eh, Tom Brady is just so NEW...here's the thing. One of the things about American football is that we totally revere who has gone before. American sports in general, really. Who is still held up as basketball perfection? Michael Jordan. Who is still baseball perfect despite Barry Bonds (and all the doping and crap)? Babe Ruth. Football's Beckhams are people like Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Deion Sanders (other people say this...I am miffed at him but it goes back to Florida State University days), and the entire Manning legacy.

But then again, I Googled "most famous football players" and somehow ended up at a quote page for Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, which has sent me LOLing (I am a Florida State graduate and Tallahassee native so football is pretty much in me bones) soooo...

But yeah, you really could say American football's Beckham for the ages is Joe Montana, barring all others.
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(no subject)
03:56pm 27/10/2009 (UTC)
but bright and solid, like a new bike
well yeah, but beckham's no best/moore/keegan/brooking/gascoigne/cantona/puskas/di stefano/pele/maradonna (to pick ten at almost random) innit ;)

this is why brady = beckham, they're both new.
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(no subject)
02:54pm 27/10/2009 (UTC)
Sarah: study Tigger
Even as an American, I'm not a huge fan of our football, but I do enjoy it occasionally (my hometown Buffalo, and my current location Pittsburgh are rabid locations for it). I'm glad you seemed to have a reasonably good time as well.

Part of the reason everything is so heavily sponsored around the game is because it's one of the most widespread advertising forums in the US, and because the league hasn't broken down and allowed ads on the jerseys (yet). So the sport doesn't have the supposed benefit of having a Wayne Rooney or similar equivalent advertising this or that.

And I've found that making lewd comments about the sexual preferences of the opposing players is fairly common in American football as well...maybe we were trying to be on our better behavior in a foreign country. But that doesn't sound like Americans at all :P
picword: study Tigger
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(no subject)
02:59pm 27/10/2009 (UTC)
Mr. Dr. Grumpy Mister, M.D. aka the Twelfth Doctor
Go to a game sometime. We don't make slurs on sexual orientation, simply negativity regarding masculinity, manliness, and bravery. You're not going to hear "up the arse", you're gonna hear "you fucking pansy, did you forget how to run? Go home and boohoo to MOMMA!" :)
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(no subject)
10:04pm 27/10/2009 (UTC)
Michael Grasso: boston
Hah! What a great entry. ultra_lilac pointed me here as we've been going back and forth the past week listening to the guys (retired athletes and newspaper reporters) on sports radio here make fun of England. ultra_lilac turns off the radio whenever this happens. :D

And yeah, American football is a sport much better suited for TV, and in fact much of its game flow is structured so as better to fit into TV broadcast (frequent commercial timeouts, etc.) which can make watching it live a really really boring experience. Still, it sounds like the atmosphere didn't lose much in the translation over there!

That's part of the reason I haven't been to a live football game since I was a little kid; there's little appeal to driving an hour and a half down to Foxboro, sitting out in the cold during the worst parts of a New England winter, watching tiny players skitter across the field. :)

BTW, I must friend you now. :)
picword: boston
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